Just last week, a colleague of mine got the chance to play with Nintendo´s upcoming 3DS-handheld himself. As if I couldn´t get hyped up anymore, he reported back how awesome the 3D-effect actually is. Which, to be frank, surprised me quite a bit, as I had thought the 3DS´s effect would be rather gimmicky and tacked on, not comparible with the 3D we all know from the movie theater. Well, turns out that was wrong. But I´m gladly wrong here. Anyway, I thought about that 3D-effect and it made me realize something.
What put games one step ahead of movies was their interactivity. You can read about that in detail here, but the order of evolution in entertainment-terms goes as follows: picture -> movie -> video game. Games are interactive movies, well, not literally, at least most of them are not. But where a movie is a passive, moving picture, a video game is an active, moving picture. And then there´s 3D-movies. And that´s where video games have to play catch up: There are no real 3D-games, not in the sense of actively controlling what makes 3D 3D. That´s where the 3DS comes into play.
Imagine a game with fixed camera view. Now imagine some character being displayed on-screen, let´s say, Mario. And now imagine controlling said Mario … out of and into the screen´s depth effect. There really isn´t that much more to describe, that´s it. And it´d be awesome beyond anything else. I once dreamed about the idea of having holograms some time in the future where you could basically control Mario jumping around in your own room and such. Well, 3D won´t be able to let you do that, but it certainly could bring Mario and whoever out of the screen, making it look as if he was jumping around in front of your eyes instead of inside a small screen. What makes this that gorgeous is the fact that the player himself would be able to control the depth of the 3D-effect, and not by using the 3D-slider of the handheld but by moving a virtual character. Just imagine yourself holding the analog-pad downwards and pressing the A-button, making Mario jump in your face. It´d then look as if he was running in front of your nose, and once you decide to push the analog-pad upwards, he´d be running back inside the depth of his world.
Obviously, most 3DS-games will probably feature a fixed character-position, but even then, a certain amount of controlling the 3D itself is possible. Imagine some objects flying around your characters, like those holy seeds in the movie “Avatar”. By walking further, these objects would move closer to the player´s face. So, even within the context of a typical video game-setup, 3D would be controllable by the player.
I think that this is important to note, because it really is something completely new. Until now, 3D was a neat effect in movies, but it is the 3DS that will turn it into something much, much more powerful. I realize, by the way, that 3D is already possible with a few games, but it´ll be the 3DS that´s going to bring out 3D´s potential for gaming and get it to the masses. That´s a given, if the already existing popularity for Nintendo´s new little machine is any indication.